10 September 2021

Covid Creative Talk with James Hunter, Creative & Digital Recruiter, Australia



Creative Talk with our Australia Creative Recruitment Consultant - James Hunter – who takes care of all our clients and candidates in the design and creative sector.  We find out how James is fairing during lockdown, and importantly how are our clients and candidates facing Covid.



James, give us a bit of background to you, and how your journey took you to The Creative Store.


Originally from the South Coast, I went to high school in Sydney and played basketball, a lot! Went through the college system playing at Washington State, Gillette College and South Dakota. Then played some professional hoops in Spain, New Zealand and Australia. The highlight was winning a championship with the Sharks in NZ and playing for the Tall Blacks in the Asia Cup. I turned my focus to recruitment and have recruited in retail, Healthcare and now the world of Creative. I also have a baby boy named Jagger!



Covid has changed how we work and how our clients work – what are the most significant changes you have seen this lockdown?


When the first lockdown rolled around, the market ground to a halt as everyone was understandable caught a little off guard. This time around I think people were definitely a little more prepared. We are still seeing the freelance market ticking along with projects getting the green light. The overseas talent has slowed significantly, however that means organisations are looking to the talent we already have based here in Australia. Obviously, a lot of zoom meetings and video chats, however people have really taken that in their stride and doing their best given the circumstances.



Outside of a lockdown period, what percentage of clients prefer their team to be working in-house vs working from home?


Pre Covid my answer would have been very different, with most organisations preferring freelancers and Perm staff in-house. Now given everything, teams are seeing success and the ability to be more remote. I think we will see a phasing back in-house once the lockdowns are lifted, however from everything I am hearing from our clients and candidates, it will continue to be a mix of in-house and at home.



Give us an insight into the talent pool and how we are all adjusting to sourcing the best talent.


As we have been meeting great candidates for six years in Australia, and ten in New Zealand, our talent pool is great for finding a range of candidates. With the obvious demand in the digital space and role titles like UI, UX, and Digital Designers are all being sought after, we are finding availability hard to find and secure. For us, it's all about different avenues, and how we can get great opportunities in in front of our amazing network of candidates.



Are candidates – freelance, contract and permanent - being more selective in choosing their next job?


I don't think they are being more selective per se; I feel that Covid affected people and industries in profound ways. I have spoken with people who had huge, ready to launch projects placed on indefinite hold, as well as those who sadly lost the position they were in. I am hearing people looking for flexibility, security, and a great team to collaborate with above all. We did see some seasoned freelancers take full-time roles to give them job security, and on the flip side, other candidates are looking at this as an opportunity to try freelancing.



Salaries and rates – what current trends are you seeing in Australia?


I am seeing things stay pretty in line with our 2021 Salary survey ( Digital roles and tech companies are now offering quite high base salaries to entice the right employee. From the conversations I am having, our Australian salaries and rates are still lower than the UK and USA, and higher than New Zealand.


Companies and candidates that are initially a little more flexible with their $ expectations, are the ones getting the interviews, having the conversations and landing more of the freelance and full-time roles. Got to be in the conversation to be in contention.



Let's talk about UX UI.  There is a serious lack of top-end talent.  What would you recommend to clients as a workaround?


Yes, I feel as the digital space evolves, and job titles evolve, the number of seasoned senior top-level designers decreases. What I am seeing is the designers in that conversation are very in demand and sometimes booked a year in advance. Makes things a little harder when briefs roll in for the next week, that require that level of ability. I have seen clients consider more mid-level experience candidates, with the view of getting them up to speed which, and with the right attitude, this can be very successful. I would also recommend thinking through the brief and what you really need that person to achieve. As there are currently so many job opportunities out there for creatives and designers, it's important to make your job role stand out.


The Unicorn candidate/job brief – we get some briefs that are challenging – requiring several skillsets that wouldn't naturally align within one role – how do you navigate these? 


Sometimes there is an element of education around role function and the types of creatives and designers available. I have seen job briefs come in that are looking for the skillsets of three people all wrapped in one. I feel when putting together a Job Description, it can be easy to throw some extra responsibilities in there that you feel would really help the team. I ask clients what the non-negotiables are for the job, and aim for them. It is really a sliding scale of skills; we may be able to find someone who hits every mark; however, it shrinks the potential candidate pool greatly.



We have offices in NZ and AU – which allows AU candidates to spread their wings and have further career options – however, we don’t see too many AU flocking to NZ – why is this?


Great question! I lived in NZ for three years while I played basketball. I have family all up the North and South Island. Some of the most scenic parts of the world live in NZ. I would vouch for a Trans-Tasman ditch jump for a career change-up.



If you are a candidate or client and would like to discuss your career / employment – contact us at The Creative Store.



New Zealand

Louise Lawton –

M +64 21 245 0089 /
T   +64 9 365 1077


Lauren Juska –

M +61 420 339 144

+61 2 8278 7514